The Federal Government of Nigeria prefers negotiation than the use of force to free 110 school girls abducted by suspected members of the Boko Haram sect some weeks ago. President Muhammadu Buhari made the disclosure during the visit of the former American Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to Nigeria last week.
Unlike other terrorists acts globally, no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction several weeks after the unfortunate incident. Not to talk of setting preconditions for the release of the girls. So, who is FG going to be negotiating with for the release of the girls? If we believe the narrative of Aisha Wakil a.k.a Mama Boko Haram, that the girls are in the custody of the Abu Musab Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram, then FG will have difficulty negotiating with him because his demands might be unreasonable. Al-Barnawi is believed to be the first son of the slain founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. He could be motivated by revenge for his father’s death and prove difficult at the negotiating table. We also run the risk of making abduction of soft targets by terrorist groups the norm, as it will be seen by the insurgents as a cheap way of making money to fund their operations. Is FG planning to go the same route that it did with the released Chibok girls which it exchanged for men and money thus providing oxygen for the already dying terrorist group to stage attacks in Dapchi and Rann? What exactly is going to be involved in this negotiation? Is FG going to pay a higher price than it did in the case of the released Chibok girls? Garba Shehu, the President’s spokesperson, said on a television programme monitored in Lagos that the Boko Haram commanders who were traded in exchange for the released Chibok girls were certified free of any threat to the Nigerian state by the security agencies before their release. Nothing could be further from the truth as recent evidence suggests otherwise. Shuaibu Moni, one of the freed commanders, went back to Sambisa Forest and recently released a video threatening to destroy Nigeria.
I am curious to know what manner of help Rex Tillerson, on behalf of the government and people of America, offered to the Nigerian government to enable it rescue the abducted school girls. Why did FG turn down the offer in favour of negotiation with the terrorists? A similar scenario played out during the abduction of the Chibok girls and those who are now in the government were the same set of people who criticized Former President Goodluck Jonathan for refusing foreign help. We need the Americans and any other foreign power willing to offer us help because our security agencies have proven over and over again that they have zero capacity when it comes to gathering intelligence to be used in fighting the insurgents. We need their intelligence gadgets, and officers skilled in intelligence gathering techniques, data analysis, and search and rescue operations. It will not be out of place if the Nigerian security forces collaborate with foreign security forces to craft a whole new strategy to defeat Boko Haram and bring lasting peace to the North East. We should be proactive and not reactive in this war.
It is highly unfortunate that the President attempted to score cheap political points by comparing his response to the dapchi girls abduction to Jonathan’s response to the Chibok girls abduction. That betrays insensitivity to the plight of the heart-broken parents of the abducted girls. A military victory is what we should seek before a political victory. I am not totally against negotiation but we should employ the carrot-and-stick approach on this issue. Box the insurgents into a corner and force them to negotiate from a position of weakness. That is the way forward.